Forever 21 has removed a series of “Koreatown” shirts from its website and stores in the wake of allegations that the fast-fashion brand ripped off the design from Mike Pak’s Los Angeles brand Koreatown.
Both designs have similar layouts and varsity lettering, with “Koreatown” printed across the front. Popular fashion Instagram account @diet_prada first reported on the situation. In a post that received more than 25,000 likes, the account highlighted the fact that Koreatown’s proceeds go directly to Koreatown organizations, while Forever 21’s do not.
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Pak’s supporters have used this incident as an opportunity to call out the ethical dilemmas fast fashion poses. One Instagram user who reposted the news to her Instagram story, wrote: “It’s not unlikely that this @forever21 knockoff could have been made by literal children in another country … this is why we should try to avoid fast fashion. It’s wildly exploitative!”
Forever 21 has yet to comment publicly on the situation, but Pak said on Instagram that he spoke with the company privately during a “productive call.” In addition to pulling the items from all physical and online stores, Pak says the retailer agreed to give back to the AAPI community by donating $20,000 each to five local Koreatown organizations: the Koreatown Youth + Community Center, Urban Partners Los Angeles, APAIT, the Koreatown Immigrant Workers Alliance, and the Islamic Center of Southern California.
“Thank you to the Forever 21 team for understanding that this is bigger than a name or a shirt,” Pak wrote. “Hopefully this sheds more light on the importance of Community beyond clothing or profit.”
Neither Pak nor Forever 21 responded to Los Angeles‘ requests for comment. Forever 21, which was founded in L.A. in 1984, has been accused of plagiarizing designs on more than one occasion, and has been called out by everyone from indie designers to Gucci.
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